May 9, 2003

Sometime back, Star Plus had a weekly programme called Star Blockbusters. This was an hourly show that would feature different stories each week, providing an excellent opportunity to budding writers and directors to showcase their talent. The result was often stunning, with a wide gamut of stories, actors and thematic ideas of a high quality. It featured the efforts of established names like Rajit Kapur and newcomers like Tigmanshu Dhulia (whose names can now be seen in the credits of upcoming films). A full discussion on this some other day, but the reason for mentioning this is because the subject of this post reminds me of the best episode ever to feature on Star Blockbusters. Positively brilliant, I hope the director (some lady whose name I unfortunately forget) will make a groundbreaking film someday. This story was a murder mystery with a touch of the supernatural and a classy twist at the end. The background music was outstanding with the evidence to show: I can still feel the shivers down my spine. The name of the story was Dead End.

That brings me to the post: everyone who has lived in Pune knows that the roads are a minefield, a living deathtrap, something out of a teenager's video game where the objective is to give each other a good fright. The traffic sense of seeming educated people is appalling. In my small route to office, things are compounded by the number of blind corners. F-1 drivers have hairpin bends to face too but there, atleast no one is driving in the opposite direction without the slightest inclination to use the hooter when it is supposed to (and not, as Punekars believe, to be used at traffic signals when the lights at the opposite end go amber). The gates of my apartments open onto a 90 degrees bend, and while approaching the house, one has to get to the righthand side of the road at the bend. Getting from the house to the main Baner road takes me past two more blind corners, so close to each other that it makes a sssslithering ssssnake sssssee S'sss everywhere. Count to three. Things are fine (by Puneri standards) till the office. Till about a few months ago, I was at Bhageerath. This meant a series of traffic manouevres that involves a very sinister set of diversions into sidestreets and back alleys which contribute another three to the tally, all this courtesy the Pune Traffic department who in a backhanded slap, made worse a problem with the solution. The gates of the building are parallel to the inner road, so a deft 90 degrees turn to get in, but another left turn towards the parking area contributes to the count because the security offices obscure the view.

The best is yet to come, the access to the parking is the same narrow path in and out with the greatest care to avoid you seeing the other motorists. All, no doubt, with the best intentions of promoting healthy moto-cross.

I've already lost count, what with keeping an anxious and wary eye on the madcaps on the road who like to jump out of the other side of the blind turn, on your side of the road and say "Boo!". A move to another company building, Panini, didn't help. A U-turn followed by a right blind turn, a left blind turn, a left what-can-be-described-as-a-squint turn, another left squint turn (all up a ramp, mind you) and then there is the welcoming party to garland you for having made it alive one more day.

And of course, there is the journey back home. No wonder, I don't seem to go out too much, what with the massive strain each day!

More seriously speaking, the traffic in the city stinks to high heaven. For all our so-called Puneri intellectual superiority, each time our vehices set wheel on the macadams and cements and tars, we display an unceasing savagery coupled with a lack of basic human courtesy and common sense that is no laughing matter: we put our lives in danger each time we step out.

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